Clocks sprang ahead an hour yesterday, but our citizen Sisyphean Legislature is still tackling last week’s workload when it convenes Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Abortion bills. Union bills. And a constitutional amendment to provide that “the Legislature shall have the power to authorize schools" are among the many items on the agenda. Ah, nothing spells progress like the perennial debate over "Claremont."
Road Work Ahead: Where we’re going we still need roads. And the “Back to the Future” reference could go for the constant concern – the drying up of federal highway funds to help pay for local and state transportation improvements. The legislative calendar has the House taking up the state’s transportation improvement program on Wednesday, but expect possible delay until Thursday, given the sheer number of bills ahead. The plan assumes continued near-level federal funding of $143 million per year, so if there is any reduction in New Hampshire’s federal aid, some projects in the 10-year plan could be delayed or eliminated, according to Rep. Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett. State priorities include widening of I-93, New Hampshire’s “Little Dig” that is currently under-funded by $250 million.
Double-take Department: The House will consider a committee recommendation to kill a bill that would establish a religious exemption for individuals “who do not wish to provide accommodations, goods or services for marriages.” A majority report concluded the bill was well-intended, but called it too far-reaching. Oh, and yeah, discriminatory and “probably unconstitutional.”
Life Lines: House Bill 1679, one of the abortion-related bills still before the House, centers on partial-birth abortions and third-trimester abortions. A committee voted 13-4 to recommend its passage. Rep. Kathleen Souza, writing the majority report for House Judiciary, says the bill would have New Hampshire join a growing list of states that prohibit the procedure. The minority report, which calls the bill unnecessary, notes representatives from the New Hampshire medical Society oppose the bill. Physicians should be “free of legislative interference in the exercise of their best medical judgment and in their relationships with their patients,” the minority maintains.
Life Lines, Part II: The House will see two bills regarding end-of-life care. HB 1216 involves authority for withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. HB 1217 involves the form for executing advance directives for health care decisions. Both have ought-to-pass recommendations.
Labor, Big and Little: The battle lines remain the same over various right-to-work and alleged union-busting bills before the House again this week. They include House Bill 1645, prohibiting public employees from participating in collective bargaining; House Bill 1677, relative to choice as to whether to join a labor union and eliminating the duty of a public employee labor organization to represent employees who elect not to join or to pay dues or fees to the employee organization; and House Bill 1685, relative to collective bargaining under the public employee labor relations statutes.
In Other Business: The House Special Committee on Redistricting meets today, March 12, in Room 308 of the Legislative Office Building to continue a public hearing on congressional redistricting.
And Town Meeting Day is Tuesday, March 13 – an unofficial day off for state lawmakers, as more than a few are also active volunteers in local governance.